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What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when your body cannot make insulin or makes very little insulin. 1

Type 1 diabetes can be managed by following your healthcare professional's advice.

When living with type 1 diabetes

Diabetes day by day
6 min. read

Diabetes day by day

Good diabetes management requires awareness and careful planning for all types of environments and situations.

Type 1 diabetes
3 min. read

Type 1 diabetes

When living with type 1 diabetes, it is important to make modifications to your current lifestyle to manage your diabetes. Learn more here »

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes

In most cases, type 1 diabetes develops early in life and is often diagnosed during childhood. 3

Signs of type 1 diabetes include: 1,2

  • Excessive urination  as your body expels excess glucose
  • Extreme thirst  resulting from urination
  • Muscle cramps  as fluid loss creates an imbalance in electrolytes in your blood
  • Rapid weight loss  as your body uses fat for energy when cells cannot absorb glucose
  • Tiredness and fatigue  as energy from glucose cannot reach your body’s cells
  • Thrush/genital itching, yeast infections  as glucose in urine can increase growth of fungus and bacteria
  • Blurry vision  caused by high glucose levels in the fluid of your eye 
  • Sweet or fruity-smelling breath  as acids are released when your body uses non-glucose energy sources 

If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, please seek medical support immediately.

What causes type 1 diabetes? 

The disease starts when the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, the hormone that helps convert glucose into energy for the body’s cells. As more insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed, the body can no longer control its blood sugar levels and the symptoms of type 1 diabetes begin to appear.1

Genetic and environmental factors are suspected to play a role in why a person develops type 1 diabetes.1

Diagnosing type 1 diabetes

If you show signs of having type 1 diabetes, your doctor may use blood or urine tests to diagnose it. There are several ways this can be done. An initial test can be a simple blood sugar test. If your test results are above normal and you have the common symptoms, you may be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.1,2

If you do not have the common symptoms, but your blood sugar or urine blood sugar level is high, additional blood tests can be taken to measure HbA1C levels.1 HbA1C is a measure of how well controlled your blood sugar has been over three months, and it gives a good idea of how high or low, on average, your blood sugar levels have been. This chart compares normal levels with those indicating type 1 or type 2 diabetes.4

Living with type 1 diabetes

Since type 1 diabetes can develop quickly without any clear warning signs, getting a diagnosis may come as quite a shock. 3

The best thing that you can do is take control of the situation and learn as much as possible about type 1 diabetes, the  treatment options  and how it can affect daily life. Talk to your doctor for more information and advice. There are also many resources available for and by diabetes communities worldwide. The more you know, the more prepared you will be to deal with the challenges ahead.

With good management of blood sugar levels and an overall healthy lifestyle, most people with type 1 diabetes can live a long and active life. 

Read more about "Living with diabetes"

Living with diabetes

Living with diabetes

How do you manage your lifestyle when it comes to diabetes? Whether it be nutrition or exercise, we have gathered tips and articles to help you manage your diabetes.

Treatment of diabetes

Treatment of diabetes

Lifestyle and various diabetes medications all play key roles in living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

  1. NIDDK. Type 1 diabetes. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/type-1-diabetes. Last accessed: January 2024.
  2. NIDDK. Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/prediabetes-insulin-resistance. Last accessed: January 2024.
  3. Diabetes UK. Type 1 diabetes. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/types-of-diabetes/type-1. Last accessed January 2024.
  4. Diabetes UK. What is HBA1C? Availablle from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/hba1c#:~:text=The%20hemoglobin%20A1c%20(HbA1c)%20test,your%20diabetes%20is%20being%20controlled. Last accessed: January 2024.
  5. Diabetes.co.uk. Diabetes life expectancy. Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-life-expectancy.html. Last accessed: January 2024.
  6. American Diabetes Association. 2. Classification and Diagnosis of Diabetes: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2022 Diabetes Care. 2022 Jan 1;45(Suppl 1):S17-S38.
  7. Diabetes.co.uk. Blood sugar level ranges. Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes_care/blood-sugar-level-ranges.html#:~:text=Normal%20and%20diabetic%20blood%20sugar%20ranges&text=Between%204.0%20to%205.4%20mmol,dL)%202%20hours%20after%20eating Last accessed: January 2024.